Six innovative strategies to stop throwing food away
For centuries, different ways of prolonging the shelf life of foods were used, from salt to sun-drying pickles. Today we have many ingenious technologies and ideas to improve the way our food is produced, distributed and consumed. Let’s take a look at some of the most promising proposals:
1. Smart labels
The Spanish company Oscillium has developed biodegradable smart labels that change colour as food loses freshness.
For the retailer, the label functions as a visual alarm that allows him to quickly identify which products have been altered during transport and storage, which require more immediate disposal or donation to those most in need.
For the consumer it is a very handy tool to prioritise those foods that are less fresh when preparing meals, with the advantage that it works even after the package has been opened or discarded. That’s right; as long as the label is in contact with the food, we will have information about its status in real time.
This innovation is particularly interesting because it ensures that food will not end up in the bin because of an error in the interpretation of conventional labels. In fact, according to data collected by the European Commission, 10% of the food wasted in the European Union is associated with date marking and 50% of it is produced in households.
2. Absorb ethylene to slow spoilage
As they ripen, fruits and vegetables emit ethylene, which in turn accelerates the ripening process of other foods. The U.S. company Bluapple has designed several tools based on this well-known principle. The most interesting is a small device that absorbs ethylene and can be placed directly in contact with food. It also offers reusable smart packaging that extracts the ethylene produced by the fruit or vegetable inside and lets in fresh air, while adjusting the humidity required by the contents.
3. More data to save food
One of the strategies to avoid food losses is the accumulation and interpretation of data. In line with this, UK-based Winnow proposes tools that monitor kitchens, identify food waste in restaurants and then apply artificial intelligence to offer suggestions for improvement. In this way, chefs receive the necessary information so that their production processes can reduce food waste by half!
4. Secure, transparent and automated donations
Another company fighting to prevent food waste through digitisation is Spain’s Oreka, which allows companies to donate their surplus food to NGOs through a transparent and automated process. It is a very useful service for central kitchens, producers, schools or supermarkets because, in addition to ensuring the destination of their surpluses, they accumulate data on their overproduction to improve their purchases.
5. Embrace the imperfections in food
In Mexico, the company Perfekto brings consumers boxes of imperfect fruits and vegetables that would otherwise have been discarded for not meeting aesthetic requirements.
6. It is not waste; it is a new raw material
Our planet is crying out for us to abandon the linear production-consumption-waste scheme once and for all and turn it into a circular model where everything is put to good use. What can we do with those foods that, despite our best efforts, end up in the bin?
Several initiatives are contributing to this change, such as the U.S.-based Kore Infrastructure, which produces biogas through environmentally friendly thermal treatment of food waste, and InnoLarva, which transforms agri-food waste into biomass from a degradation process involving insect larvae.